“Time changes all things” ― Ferdinand de Saussure
Ask anyone familiar with the 60’s what living off of the grid means, and you’re liable to get an answer that makes you blush.
And while their colorful explanation will most likely be accurate (and certainly entertaining), the average person will have missed the primary requirement for what defines off-grid.
In the simplest of terms, an off-grid home is a home that is not connected to the electric grid.
For some, this means growing their own food, raising livestock and, quite possibly, forgoing any modern convenience. In this case, their definition of the ‘grid’ has grown to encompass more than just the electrical utility.
However, while this is technically accurate, it takes away from the literal meaning and muddies the understanding of those less familiar.
When Did Off-Grid Living Become Popular?
If we discount the vast amount of humanity that lived before the invention of electricity, off-grid living became popular in the 1960’s.
At that time, a large amount of the population in the United States had become very disenchanted with government. With the Vietnam War that seemed to have no end and the Civil Rights Moment gaining real traction, people began to question the social norms that had been pressed upon them.
For some, the need to reject what they believed to be true social injustice, compelled them to abandon society and start anew.
These individuals would often seek out other like-minded ‘rebels’ and join together to form communes.
An overwhelming number of these communes were not attached to the electric utility, or any other convenience of the time; its members choosing instead to rely upon themselves as opposed to a system they felt was corrupt.
And so began the initial definition of living ‘off-grid’.
The Evolution Of Off-Grid Living
With the end of the Vietnam War and victories won for Civil Rights, the immense turmoil that had besieged America, began to scale back.
The energetic defiance that had been embraced by many, gave way to desire for peace and normality.
Communes were abandoned as people slipped back into a new society.
But while most were able to find a place in this new norm, not all could. For some, the need to remain separated from the shackles of a system they saw built to exploit, was too strong to ignore.
Consequently, they moved even farther away from society, and thusly, farther away from the electric grid, choosing instead to rely solely upon themselves instead of a commune.
This move strengthened the already established concept that living off grid meant forgoing any modern convenience.
Technology is a force that never stops moving. And while the spirit of self reliance endures, the hardships that were so common in the initial conception of off grid living, are no longer mandatory.
Solar panels, in particular, are providing a level of power and convenience that were unimaginable in the 1960’s.
For example, our home is currently off-grid.
Yet despite being unattached to the electric grid, we have 3 flushing toilets, central air, microwave, dishwasher, and a host of other normal conveniences that no one would have thought possible even twenty years ago.
There are also two adults, working from home offices and a 3rd grader who is attending class virtually.
In other words, there is very little to distinguish the difference between our home life and that of another family who is attached to the electric utility.
Such is the possibility of living off-grid today.
Self reliance is still a part of our mindset as we do a great deal of gardening and even care for a flock of chickens. However, the lack of attachment to the utility grid has in no way impaired our quality of life.
While there is something romantic about living a life without modern convenience, the difference between off-grid living today and what it was in the 1960’s is that the technology of today give you options that were not previously available.
The spirit of defiant independence is still very much alive, and I for one am grateful for that. But unlike the past, you are no longer required to make major sacrifices.
Solar power has given people the option of living a normal life with modern conveniences, while still being free and independent of any system that may be built to exploit or control.